What to Say to Prospective Employers if You’ve Ever Been Fired

By Interview Success Formula

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It’s bad enough losing a job, but what makes it worse is the inescapable stigma attached to having been fired. You live in fear of that next job interview when you’ll inevitably be asked, “Have you ever been fired from a job?” or just, “Where are you currently working?” With the economy in flux these past years many companies have had lay offs, leaving a lot of people out of work through no fault of their own. Just venturing a guess, I would say that perhaps 25% of Americans have either been laid off or asked to resign at some point in their career. If you’ve ever lost a job through no fault of your own, you are in good company that’s for sure.

When asked the question during a job interview, “Have you ever been fired?” how should you reply?

First of all, if an employer asked for your resignation and you chose to submit it, the answer would be “no” because you left voluntarily.

If you were actually fired due to company downsizing, explain it accordingly and there should be no problem. You can say something like this, “My company experienced some serious setbacks in the economic downturn. They were forced to lay off a considerable number of employees, especially those in the ________ department. I happened to be just one of ________ people they had to sacrifice. If this was a relatively small company you can use percentages or something like, “They had to reduce their staff from 15 employees down to 10.”

On the other hand, if you were fired for cause because of documented misconduct on your part, you can try reaching out to your former supervisor or manager. As politely as possible explain to him/her that you have learned a hard lesson from this unpleasant experience. Come right out and ask him/her how they plan on explaining your termination to people who call inquiring about you. You need to know if they are going to tell your prospective employers if you were fired and why.

If it turns out that you have to admit you were fired for cause, show some humility when explaining what happened. Convey that you have since matured by saying, “To tell the truth I deserved to be let go. I had a lot going on with my family at the time and that affected my performance at work. Actually I was just one of several people that lost their job while the company was cutting costs. The issues with my family have all been resolved now and obviously I am eager to get back to work and prove myself worthy.”

There may be people at your former job that you know would speak well of you and on your behalf. If this is the case it would be smart to add, “You are welcome to call so-and-so with whom I worked very closely and ask him/her about my character and performance.”

If you are asked in a job interview, “Has anyone ever requested your resignation?”

You shouldn’t have any problems if you answer “no” to this question, even if you had been asked to resign from a previous job. If your former employer is questioned, they are not allowed to tell anyone they requested your resignation, without jeopardizing themselves legally. This would actually be an admission on their part that they fired you. That being the case, they would owe you the unemployment benefits they failed to give you, which you would have been entitled to. So they are unlikely to reveal this to anyone calling. You can feel fairly confident in answering this question, “No, I have never been asked to resign from a job.”

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